- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2003

Have you noticed when dining out that restaurant dishes come with multiples of the same vegetable family?

You don’t get a salad with one kind of lettuce, but with three. Or you may have read a menu that says something like: pork chops arranged on a bed of three onions.

Chefs say they like to mix varieties of the same vegetable to educate and dazzle their audience.

Take the theoretical pork chop dish as an example, and let’s say it has sweet Vidalia onions, pungent chives and mellow leeks. You’re getting an explosion of flavors in every bite. And if the vegetable assortment varies in color as well as taste, that’s even better, since the dish is as lovely as it is savory.



Having so many options used to be an advantage limited only to food professionals. Supermarkets didn’t offer that many choices. How that has changed. Any produce department worth its space displays at least half a dozen tomatoes and as many onions. I can buy cherry tomatoes in one of four shapes from currant to teardrop and in shades ranging from Tabasco red to sunny yellow.

Varying the shapes and colors means you can create dishes with more complex flavor and eye appeal. Instead of using one color pepper in a recipe, use two or three. The difference is stunning and the effort minimal.

Keep this in mind when shopping. Don’t buy multiples of the same ingredient if you have the opportunity to bring distinctive nuances to your recipes.

For the following shrimp recipe, I recommend a combination of bright yellow and red bell peppers with a serrano chili tossed in for a zesty bite. You can cook this beautiful entree in 15 minutes.

If you want to get fancy with dessert, serve chocolate mint sauce over three mini scoops of frozen yogurt or ice cream — one chocolate, one vanilla and one chocolate mint chip.

Shrimp over a pepper melange

Lime sauce (recipe follows)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon grated ginger root

1 serrano chili, cored, seeded and minced

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips

1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin strips

12 ounces peeled, deveined medium raw shrimp

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 cup cooked rice, optional

Prepare lime sauce and set aside. Heat vegetable oil over high heat in a wok or large skillet. Add garlic, ginger root, serrano chili, red bell pepper and yellow bell pepper. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Add shrimp and stir-fry over medium-high heat 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the lime sauce and cook 1 minute or until thick. Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice, if desired. Makes 2 servings.

LIME SAUCE:

5 tablespoons lime juice (2 limes)

2 teaspoons cornstarch

4 teaspoons sugar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon water

Combine lime juice, cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce and water in a small bowl and stir well to mix.

Chocolate mint sundae

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate

1 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt

teaspoon peppermint extract

1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt

Combine chocolate chips, half-and-half, butter, corn syrup, sugar and a pinch of salt in a heavy-bottom saucepan.

Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate melts and the mixture is warm. Do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and stir in peppermint extract.

To serve, spoon the frozen yogurt into 2 bowls. Ladle the chocolate sauce over each serving. Makes 2 servings.

Note: Leftover sauce can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES INTERNATIONAL

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